How to buy a sim card in the UK

Zorica Lončar

Planning a trip to the UK? You might be holidaying here, spending time in the UK for work or perhaps considering a permanent stay. Or maybe you’re an expat who ordinarily lives abroad, but are visiting to catch up with friends and family.

Whichever is the case, you’ll need to work out the most cost-effective way to use your smartphone while in the UK.

To avoid overseas roaming charges from your mobile network operator, it could be a good idea to get a UK sim card for your phone.

Read on for a handy guide on how to buy a sim card in the UK. This includes where to buy one, how much it costs and a quick roundup of the UK sim card best deals.

And if you need a convenient, money-saving way to spend in GBP, check out the Wise Card. We’ll show you how it works later. But for now, let’s get that UK sim card sorted for you.

UK sim card providers

In the UK, there are four major mobile network operators to choose from. These are Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three. These are the companies which physically own mobile network infrastructure.

However, there are also a number of other operators which ‘piggyback’ off the infrastructure of major networks. These include GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile, iD Mobile, Lebara and many more.

What this means for you is that there are loads of different options for buying a UK sim card.

Where can I buy a sim card in the UK?

There are lots of options for buying a sim card in the UK, whether you’re a tourist or staying for longer. They include:

  • Mobile phone shops - companies such as Vodafone, O2, Three and EE have physical stores in towns and cities all over the country. Other providers such as Lebara also have a network of shops throughout the UK.
  • Supermarkets and convenience stores - you can often buy prepaid sim cards in UK supermarkets and shops.
  • Electronics shops - such as Currys, which sells iD Mobile products¹ and also owns Carphone Warehouse.

Can I buy a UK sim card online?

One of the easiest ways to buy a sim card in the UK is online. However, you’ll usually need a UK residential address for delivery. In some cases, such as for a pay monthly sim card, a UK address is required for a credit check.

However, it may be possible to buy a pay as you go sim card online and have it delivered to your accommodation - as long as you’re staying long enough.

You can do this with Vodafone, which only requires a delivery address and doesn’t do a credit check for its pay as you go data-only sim².

Some providers also offer click and collect services. For example, you can order a pay as you go sim card at and collect it at a local Currys store³.

How much is a UK sim card?

Prices for UK sim cards vary depending on the operator and the type of plan.

You can find prepaid 30 day sim cards with limited data for just £5. However, some 30 day pay monthly plans with unlimited data from major mobile networks can cost as much as £47 a month⁴.

Best prepaid sim cards in the UK

Let’s take a look at some of the best sim card UK deals, both for prepaid and pay as you go plans.

One of the best options for tourists and temporary visitors to the UK is giffgaff. It offers a free sim card for UK use, then you choose a ‘goodybag’ of data, minutes and texts to suit you. There’s no contract or other strings attached.

Giffgaff £8 Goodybag⁵

  • 3GB data
  • Unlimited minutes and texts
  • £8 monthly cost

Lebara 3GB plan⁶

  • 3GB data
  • 1000 UK minutes and texts
  • 1000 international minutes to 42 countries
  • £5 monthly cost

Talkmobile 10GB plan⁷

  • 10GB data
  • Unlimited minutes and texts
  • £9
  • 30 day contract

UK pay as you go deals

Another option is a pay as you go sim card. This is where you get a free sim card for the UK and only pay for what you use. You’ll do this by topping up your phone with ‘credit’. There’s no monthly or upfront cost, and you’re not tied into a contract.

To find the best pay as you go deals, you’ll need to compare the cost per MB for data and the cost per minute for calls from different providers. And of course, the cost of each text.

One of the cheapest in the UK is from 1pmobile, which uses the EE network. It charges just 1p/MB, 1p/minute and 1p/text⁸.

Save on holiday spending with the Wise international debit card

While you’re sorting out a sim card for your trip, don’t forget about spending money. The good news is that you don’t need to change currency or carry cash around with you. Just use the Wise debit card instead.

Open a Wise multi-currency account onlineand you can get a Wise debit card for spending in 175 countries, including the UK.

This clever contactless card automatically converts currency to GBP at the mid-market exchange rateand has transparent fees. You can simply tap your card at the shops and restaurants, and Wise automatically converts your GBP to EUR at a fair exchange rate.

Join Wise today

Sources used for this article:

  1. ID Mobile - store locator
  2. Vodafone - PAYG SIM
  3. Car Phone Warehouse - basket
  4. Vodafone - best sim only deals
  5. Giff Gaff - free sim cards
  6. Lebara - best SIM only deals
  7. Talk Mobile - SIM only
  8. Money Saving Expert - best pay as you go sim cards

Sources checked on 02-Aug-2022.

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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